1995 – the actor Sally Field speaks at the 5th World Conference on Women’s Health in Beijing on how a simple clean birthing kit costing $1 when used in a home birth in a developing country can save the life of a baby and mother by reducing the risk of infection.

1999 – Dr Joy O’Hazy, a doctor and member of the Zonta Club of Adelaide Hills, devises the simple birthing kit which is still in use today. With the enthusiasm and commitment from the Adelaide Hills Zonta club members the production of kits started and has never waned.

2003 – the project was accepted by Zonta International District 23 clubs as a District project.

2004 – Zonta International District 24 took on the project. Production was now Australia wide. The project also received 2 years funding from AusAID (the Australian Government’s international aid section), with personal support from the HON Alexander Downer MP, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs.

2005 The Birthing Kit Project involved facilitating and supplying clean birthing kits ensuring they arrived at their endorsed destinations. The processes for reliable, cost effective supplies and transport were established and achieved a 97% success rate with the birthing kits arriving at their sometimes very remote destinations.

2006 – The Birthing Kit Foundation Australia (BKFA) is established. Based on the outcomes of the initial monitoring visits in 2006 the BKFA expanded its scope to include provincial health authorities and five day health, nutrition, hygiene and birth attendant training programs designed and established to complement the supply of the clean birthing kits. These programs have proved to be invaluable in poor communities with knowledge around health, hygiene and birthing embedded for the long term.

2007 – Saw the supply of birthing kits and community development programs continued, with the goal of achieving, within targeted countries, self-sustainable kit production. In specific countries the BKFA aims within a five year time frame, to have all birthing kits made in-country and training programs funded locally.

2008 – With 28,000 locally made birthing kits in Hanoi (19,000 of them paid for by a local organisation) these goals were successfully realised in 2008-09 and were the first steps towards self-sustainability of the Birthing Kit Project in Vietnam. Particularly well received were the five day health training programs delivered in three different provinces with one program in Southern Vietnam being wholly funded by another high end organisation located in Ho Chi Minh City.

2009 – The BKFA plans to direct its future attention and resources targeting specific countries, within the Asia-Pacific and Africa region, with high maternal mortality rates (MMR) including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, India, Laos, Chad, and Nigeria. The BKFA will continue to support its smaller programs.

Since inception 800,000 kits have been delivered to some of the poorest women in Asia, Africa and the Pacific. Over 7,800 women have received training in basic health, hygiene and safe birth practices. Hundreds of Assembly Days have been held by Zontians and other community groups.

Zonta is still the backbone of the project, with its huge commitment via Assembly Days and fundraising. The 6 Directors of the Board are all dedicated volunteers. Three part-time staff handle the work involved in the day to day management.

Key stakeholders in the Birthing Kit Project are the Australian Government, in country regional government health authorities, NGOs, midwives, health workers, traditional birth attendants (TBAs) and their communities. The direct beneficiaries of the Birthing Kit Project and work of the BKFA are the women giving birth in rural and remote regions and their babies.

While we have no accurate statistics of how many lives have been saved or how many women have avoided infection by the provision of a safe, clean birthing site we know it must number into the thousands.

BKFA passes AusAID Acquittal with 149,200 kits made from July 08 – June 09. Approximately 2,600 Village Health Nurses / TBAs were trained in Vietnam and 100 TBAs in Kenya. Nearly 30,000 kits made in-country in Vietnam as the BKFA works toward sustainability.

2010 – Zonta clubs are still funding and making the majority of kits.

BKFA director Julie Monis-Ivett attends the Zonta International Convention in San Antonio, USA, to showcase the Birthing Kit Project and deliver kits, brochures and the film to interested Zontians at club and ZI executive level.

The BKFA achieves OAGDS which is tax deductibility for donations.

The Foundation receives $150,000 from AusAID through the Community Call 2 Action (CC2A) program with an emphasis on educating the Australian public about the UN Millennium Development Goals. With the CC2A funds the BKFA Film “Addressing the Millennium Development Goals” is produced along with a new A3 Information PR Folder, powerpoint presentation and brochures that are posted to all Zonta clubs. The DVD is available on request.

Over 7,500 traditional birth attendants now trained at health training programs in Vietnam, Kenya, India and Ethiopia.

In country kit production grows with 3,360 kits made in Ethiopia by Afar Pastoralist Development Association, 2,000 kits in DR Congo by Mission in Health Care and Development and 9000 kits for Hoa Binh in Vietnam. In country kit production is finalised with staff at the Fistula Hospital with 10,000 kits to be made using a $20,000 Rotary International donation.

Monitoring in Ethiopia sees many highlights to programs supported there. Traditional Birth Attendants in many rural regions of Ethiopia after attending our training programs conducted by Valerie Browning are stopping Female Circumcision, even TBAs who had performed it for 40 years. Harmful practices associated with childbirth are addressed and with education new safe childbirth practices are commenced.

2011 – Zonta clubs are continuing to work with schools to make kits.

Over 900,000 kits now made and over 8,000 birth attendants trained.

In country kit production involving 3,000 kits being made for Ha Giang Province Vietnam is the next step towards the Provincial Health Authorities commitment to producing their own kits within two years.

PR and Fundraising has developed with more websites supporting our work and recommending individuals support our programs. We are on more donation websites internationally and locally. The Gift card option for personalised messages in cards has been popular especially around Mother’s day.

A Bequest booklet was developed to enable long term sustainability of the BKFA.

The BKFA continues to work towards AusAID accreditation where funding is allocated for 5 years at a time for financial stability and continuity of programs.

2012 – saw the introduction of the $3 kit for assembly days with strong acceptance by community organisations. It meant the assembly day process was now self-sustaining, and extra fundraising by the foundation could be directed to in-country programs. Our assembly day production target of 140,000 kits in Australia was comfortably achieved, despite the increased financial commitment required. 130,000 kits were dispatched over the year through our partner organisations in 24 countries.

The Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, became our Patron, and Zonta Past International President, Val Sarah, an Ambassador.

Zonta Clubs maintained their level of commitment, while groups from companies, service clubs, churches, universities, and schools joined them in increasing numbers.

The 7 PM Project on July 20 had a Good News section which showcased our project. This generated much interest from volunteers wanting to support our project and new initiatives to assist these people fundraise were introduced onto the website.

Our in-country kit production plans were given an important lift when the Foundation won a $75,000 grant from AusAID, funding the production of 30,000 kits in three areas in Ethiopia. These projects employed poor women to make birthing kits which were distributed and used in their own communities; it empowered them through the pay they received and the skills they learned. Our belief is that regular kit production will gradually build the infrastructure necessary for long-term sustainability.

Kit production was done in tandem with training programs in DR Congo and Kenya, educating more birth attendants from the Maasai and Pygmy populations. These training projects produce their own unique challenges for our partners, but are vital for the health and development of the mothers and babies of these regions. Funding for new training programs in India was also approved in January and completed during the year.

2013 – a milestone achievement for the Foundation with the making of our one millionth kit during August 2012. A number of events, organised by Zonta Clubs, were held in Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra to celebrate this milestone.

We worked with 33 organisations in 20 countries to ensure that 140,000 kits were available for use for women in rural and remote areas. These were particularly in countries with the highest rate or number of maternal and neonatal deaths like Afghanistan, Nigeria, Kenya, DR Congo, Chad, Uganda, Ethiopia and PNG. We commenced working with a further eight new partners during the year.

Vietnam and DR Congo continued to create kits for their local needs.

Board members Ruth Jackson and Di Bartel traveled to Ethiopia to evaluate the 2012 AusAID in country kit production project.

We funded three training programs.  In DR Congo, Dr Luc Mulimbalimba Masururu organised two further seminars for traditional midwives in early 2013 for the Mulenge and the Lemera Pygmies. All the educational, catering and personal requirements had to be carried into the community on foot taking two to three days each way. As almost 100 per cent of participants were illiterate, photo books were used as educational tools.

In India, SAWED finished its training program and SWEAD conducted training for a further 350 TBAs, both in Tamil Nadu. Board members Maggi Gregory and Jenny Weaver undertook a monitoring and evaluation trip of these two projects later in 2013.

2014 was a time of challenge and transformation for the Birthing Kit Foundation (Australia).

BKFA needed to review and upgrade our systems, processes and public relations. While our systems and processes had always been sound, BKFA’s growth over recent years meant they were nearing capacity. At the same time, we needed to respond to the changing communication preferences of our supporters and the growing use of social media in particular.

The most visible signs of that work was our new logo, upgraded website, enhanced newsletters and growing presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Highlights included:

Assembling 141,400 kits for the year and delivering 132,800 kits to our in-country partners;

Directors undertaking successful monitoring and evaluation trips in India and Vietnam in late 2013;

BKFA completing international programs with CENESA in Vietnam and with Abraham’s Oasis in Ethiopia;

A new train-the-trainer project with long-standing partner Mission in Health Care and Development was approved for the Democratic Republic of the Congo;

Several new birthing kit distribution and training partners are being piloted to extend BKFA’s reach.

2015

Recognising the strong relationship between BKFA and Zonta, the inaugural Zonta International Service Recognition Award was conferred on District 23 for the Zonta Birthing Kit Project, coming first out of 99 nominations.

In the 2014-15 year, BKFA has continued its transition to a mature corporate organisation. From early 2015 the Board has worked on a new Strategic Plan for BKFA. The 2015-2020 Strategic Plan has been finalised by the Board and published on our website.

In June 2015 we welcomed our latest staff member, Zeshi Fisher, who joined us in the newly created role of Program Manager. Zeshi is a wonderful fit for BKFA and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in both midwifery and international development. With her technical advisory, design and management experience on health and development projects in Africa and the Asia Pacific Region, combined with hands-on experience in the field with BKFA partner organisations in both Timor-Leste and Ethiopia, she will focus on combining our work in both kit production and community development projects into a holistic program.

BKFA held 186 ADs and produced 138,600 kits in the 2014-15 year. In February the Cheeky Monkey’s mother’s group in Perth held our 1000th AD – what an achievement!

A major (and first) corporate sponsorship arrangement with Mun (Australia) Pty Limited, a global leading glove manufacturer and supplier was secured. Mun Director, David Teng,  generously supported BKFA with both a cash donation of $20,000 and over 300,000 gloves for our kits.

BKFA progressed a wonderful partnership with World Vision which has grown and solidified in the last 12 months.  Special mention should be made of the  dedicated efforts of World Vision staff, Karli Smith and Krystal John and for World Vision partner Ian Shanks and the Fullife Foundation for their outstanding efforts, raising over $30,000 so far, with an ongoing commitment of further support.